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Chicken Pox

A common viral illness affecting mainly children but can affects adults.

 

 A common viral illness affecting mainly children but can affects adults.

It is highly infections and is spread through the droplets in the cough and sneeze of someone infected. 

A person is infections from 1-2 days before the rash appears to until all the blisters dry out  and scab over.

Particularly vulnerable and in who complications can be severe are, very young babies, pregnant women, adults and those with a weakened immune response. If anyone in this groups is exposed they should seek further advise soon.

 

Symptoms

Once a person has been infected it can take 1 -3 weeks before the rash appears.

Initially there may be symptoms of:

  • tiredness and generally feeling unwell, aching, painful muscles
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over
  • a headache and feeling sick
  • loss of appetite

The rash appears as small red raised spots which then blister and subsequently scab over.

 

Treatment

Chicken pox will usually resolve with no treatment within a week or so.

There may be some need for painkillers for fever. The itching and irritation can be soothed by calamine lotion, moisturising creams, cooling gels or an antihistamine medicine.

 

To minimise risk of infection being introduced into skin from scratching the following measures can be used: keeping nails short and clean, tapping or patting the skin instead of scratching it, wearing cotton gloves at night (or socks over hands), bathing in cool or lukewarm water and dabbing or patting the skin dry afterwards, rather than rubbing it and to wear loose, smooth cotton clothing.

 

There are medications called anti-retrovirals which can be given to those at risk of severe complications and who already are showing symptoms but the medication needs to be started within 24hours of the rash appearing. Immunoglobulins can be given in hospital for those who again are at risk of severe chicken pox.

Prevention

 

If you have had chicken pox before then you would be immune and not catch chicken pox again. Prevention is difficult unless you avoid being in contact with someone you hear has the condition. When it is close contacts that can be close to impossible. Try to stay away from work/school etc and vulnerable people until all the blisters have scabbed over. 

If travelling then it is best to check with the airline as to what their policy is but most will advise not to travel unless all blisters scabbed over usually 5-7 days after the appearance of the first spot. Some require a doctor’s note.

There is a chicken pox vaccine for those who have never had chicken pox but it is not routinely available on the NHS. It is recommended for health care professional and those who are in contact with those with a weakened immune system or in those in who severe complications of chicken pox could occur. 

 

Ibuprofen and chicken pox

 

Although ibuprofen has been used safely for many years in those with chicken pox, research is now showing that there may be an increased risk of serious skin infection called necrotising fasciitis and it could also lead to a more severe illness.

It is therefore best to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory in a person with chicken pox.

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